Thursday, July 14, 2005

For Sale - Asking $5 million

Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham fell on his sword today for the Republican Party. Cunningham won't run for a ninth term in Congress in 2006. He also announced that he will sell his Rancho Santa Fe home and donate some of the proceeds from that sale to three local San Diego charities.

There has always been skepticism that Cunningham's $2.55 million Rancho Santa Fe home was purchased at an under-market price. Cunningham bought the property from Douglas Powanda, who is currently under federal indictment for a multi-million fraud scheme at Powanda' s former company, Peregrine Systems Inc. Big dollar business deals with businessmen involved in fraud cases seems to be a pattern for Cunningham.

In today's market, Cunningham is likely to be able to sell his Rancho Santa Fe property at quite a profit, so one would expect that some local charities are looking forward to a big payday. What are the chances that these contributions will equal the total amount of money that Cunningham has made on just his San Diego real estate deals? In fact, what are the chances that Cunningham will come out further ahead when he flips his Rancho Santa Fe property and writes out his check to charity?

Cunningham continues to insist that there was nothing wrong with the original deal for his Del Mar home. Even today, he would only admit to "poor judgment" in the manner in which the Del Mar transaction was accomplished and reiterated his belief that he received a "fair price" for the Del Mar home.

Cunningham says the charity contributions are a means by which he can reassure his supporters that he is an honest person. He knows that his critics won't be swayed by such a gesture.

Question to Cunningham - If you did nothing wrong and the Del Mar sale was at a "fair price" won't your friends and supporters take your word for it? Why sell the Rancho Santa Fe house and why give money away, if you did nothing wrong?

Of course, Cunningham may have nothing left to give to charity when this is all over. With at least three separate investigations underway and questionable financial transactions in three states and the District of Columbia, Cunningham's legal expenses are going to be enormous. He has more than $600,000 in campaign contributions that he no longer needs. This money can be used for his legal fees, but considering the size and scope of the investigations and issues, Cunningham is going to need lots of money to cover those mounting costs.

Some critics even want to take Cunningham's congressional salary away from him.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says, "Rep. Cunningham's conduct is so beyond the pale as to require nothing less than his immediate resignation."

(photo credit KUSI, 6/14/2005)